Do you feel disconnected from your teen? Does it seem like your teen's moods are running the household? Teens can be some of the most misunderstood and undervalued people. They are just as powerful in the spirit and what they hear from the Lord. Many of you have heard that there is no junior Holy Spirit. We need to come alongside them and bring heaven even through the midst of big emotions.
This article is not just for parents of teens. It is for any type of guardian, foster parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor, coach and even the teens. All of us were a teen at some point in our lives and it's important that we don't hurry past these years because they were difficult for some of us. Allow God to heal any pain that you experienced yourself as a teen, so you can be there for the teens of today. They are our future leaders!
Teens are not adults; they are also not toddlers. They are the messy middle where they want respect and need teaching at the same time.
Here are 10 ways to bring healthy, godly connection with teens and parents:
1. Validation—Seek to understand and listen first. Don't go to solve problems and give advice. Validation does not mean that you agree. It allows you to move through difficult conversations without the emotions getting big.
2. Teach—Just because they don't give a great response doesn't mean we stop the teaching. They are hearing it and they want it. Keep consistent church attendance and outside fellowship activities where they receive godly teaching besides in the home.
3. Have rules—Having rules creates healthy boundaries and increased safety. I have heard from teen clients that they want and appreciate rules from their parents, even though they don't always show it.
4. Limit phone and screen usage—There is research behind increased mental health struggles and teen cellphone usage. The chemical dopamine is released when a teen gets a message or comment, which is the same that is released with addictive drugs.
5. Have serious talks every 6-12 months—Have the difficult talks yourself; don't wait for them to happen through their friends. Some topics include sex, drinking, drugs, social media, porn or current events. We want to talk about these topics through the lens of Jesus, not the world. James 3:17 (TPT) says, "the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form."
6. Do your own work—Get curious about your own emotional struggles and seek the Lord for healing. Don't expect your teen to know what to do with their emotions when you don't know what to do yourself. If you have a struggle, be real and invite your teen into it—this allows them to see how to Jesus helps us in the midst of struggles.
7. Be the thermostat of heaven, not the thermometer—If your teen is struggling with big emotions, that's okay. Don't let those moods run the household by being afraid of them. If they are angry, release peace. If they are depressed, release joy.
8. Speak the gold, not dirt—Teens need to be encouraged. Encourage and speak gold, not the difficult behaviors you "see." It doesn't help by saying, "You are really crabby today." Instead say, "I can see what God was doing when He created you. You bring so much light into a room."
9. Pray for them—You have authority as a parent to pray big prayers. Do this regularly and speak truth over your teen.
10. Spend quality time with them—This is the same reason we spend time with Father God in the secret place. We get to know them and they feel loved. When things are stressful, it's easier to handle because there is a trusted relationship.
Be encouraged that no matter where your son or daughter is at, Jesus is bigger than any problem. In Matthew 28:18 (NKJV), Jesus says, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Don't be intimidated by something in the world that you aren't aware of—that is what the enemy wants. Get educated about things in the world with the help of the Holy Spirit.
If you would like more resources on teens and parents, I recommend the books, "The Power of the Praying Parent" by Stormie Omartian, "Keep Your Love On" by Danny Silk and "The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers" by Gary Chapman.
What you do teaches more than what you say. It is important that you are genuine, authentic and seeking your own honest relationship with the Lord daily. Teens are smarter and more attuned to the Holy Spirit than we think.
If you are in crisis, help is available by call or text 1-800-273-8255 24/7. You can also visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You are loved!
For more of Strong Tower Mental Health with Heidi, listen to this podcast episode.
Heidi Mortenson is a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Bridging Hope Counseling in Minnesota. She received her Master's in Counseling Psychology from Bethel University. She is currently attending Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry (BSSM) and is approved for ordination through Patricia King's Women in Ministry Network. Her website is heidimortensonlmft.com.
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